Saturday, April 11, 2020

Face Mask in 5 minutes*

I estimate that I have sewn over 150 face masks since the pandemic happened.  When this all started, mask making became a hot crafting trend, similar to knitting koala mittens  and I admit, I was a complete naysayer about it until people started asking me to make masks for them.   I relented and did a little research and saw on the JoAnn website, they were recommending this design. Early on, I could see that elastic was going to be a problem to get; 1/4 inch was completely sold out.   I had already had bulk bought some before Christmas for my Etsy shop hair scrunchies (which was a surprise best seller for me!  Who knew hair scrunchies were back in style?) that I had quickly sewn through.   Thankfully, my engineering skills have paid off once again because I am GOOD AT MATH....

...and this is America, so people didn't realize that 3/8" elastic is a meer 1/8" bigger than 1/4" so I quickly panic bought 60 yards of the stuff from JoAnn while everyone else in the US was panic buying toilet paper on March 21.  Since I buy MTU fabric by the bolt from Portage Quilt House, I was set to make masks for a while...and make masks I did!    I decided to make them as a fundraiser for the MTU Husky Emergency Assistance Fund.

Applying my vast MTU engineering skills,  I quickly set about to improve my OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) by reducing my cycle time.   Luckily for me, I had just purchased my fantasy Swiss made sewing machine,  a Bernina 535, with my bonus check.   This machine has lots of bells and whistles like a knee lever to raise my presser foot and an automatic knotting feature, but even my old Kenmore could probably knock out a facemask in 5 minutes* without these features.

So, here is how I did it:

Before you start....

*The 5 minutes doesn't include washing and drying the fabric, which I strongly recommend you do. Prior to sewing masks, I laundered the fabric in the sanitary cycle of my washing machine, which heats the wash to 170 F for 3 minutes and then maintains the temperature at 150 F for the 2+ hr cycle to reduce shrinkage in the final product.  Quilting fabric will shrink up quite a bit, so I cut my fabric 13" in height strips and then trimmed before sewing into 9"x12" rectangles.

1. Cut fabric into a rectangle, with the "MTU" along the X axis.  Let X = 9" and Y = 12".  No interfacing is required; don't bother using it even though the JoAnn design suggested it.  Cut 2 7 inch pieces of elastic.

2.  Press into a 6"x9".   Remember, like most sewing projects, your home ec teacher was right.  Your iron is almost as important as your sewing machine.  Your iron is your friend when you are making masks. When you iron it, you don't have to pin it.

3. Sew across the top at about a 1/4" seam allowance, leaving about a 2 inch gap somewhere near the center.   Now is not the time for rocket science, just estimate it.   I marked it in blue to show where it is in this photo, but no marking is needed

4.  Pin the elastic in. The fabric is now in a tube shape, inside out.  Place the elastic inside the tube of fabric in a C shape and make sure it is flat, and use a pin to hold it in each corner.  Make sure the pin head is facing outboard.  This is worst part of making the mask, in my opinion.   I taught my husband how to do it so I didn't have to!

Elastic should be in this shape inside the fabric tube

5. Sew down both sides, pulling pins out as soon as the presser foot has it held down.  I found that it gets hung up less if you do this instead of sewing over them.

6.  Now turn through the 2 inch gap and pull out the elastic to stretch out the corners, and make sure you've turned down 1/4" fabric in the gap and press. Remember, your iron is your friend!!

7.  You are in the home stretch now; time to pin the pleats!  This is where people waste way too much time.  You don't need to mark anything, you can eyeball it.  You don't (God forbid) need to make a jig.   And now is not the time to use Wonder clips, sewists!  They are too bulky!!  Don't get me wrong; I love me some Wonder clips, but not for this.   Straight pins are what you need....

The key is getting your first pleat in right under the elastic, and then the others will fit right in underneath.  If you get the first one pinned wrong, you will need to repin, and that will add on to your cycle time.  Pin heads outboard!

fold it under right to elastic, pin heads outboard

back side view:pleat fold is right under the elastic

side view, all folded in, minimize bulk

Top view, note MTU is facing UP

8.  Time to sew it up!  Start in the upper rh corner and topstitch the whole thing in one stretch, pivoting each corner with your needle down.  I like to leave about a 1/4' on the elastic sides (using the edge of my presser foot as a guide) and a narrower stitch at the top and bottom to make sure I've closed the gap.  Again, pull pins out before you sew over them to make sure things don't get hung up

9.  TA DA!  After some practice, you can sew one in 5 minutes!

After I make my masks, I wash them again in the sanitary cycle of my machine.